Whilst talking to a sales manager incognito at a local main dealer earlier this week, I asked him how business was generally and about his fears for the coming months. “It is what it is” he replied somewhat dolefully, “we will just have to face whatever comes at us and deal with it”.
Clearly customers who have become so much more switched on in recent years will be even more demanding (yes really) and with fewer than ever for car dealers to fight over the level of service will have to match that now finely honed expectation.
The special offers and price reductions will look after themselves but the choice of dealer the customer makes to complete that deal will depend on how they perceive the experience of buying the car.
Perhaps a more worrying aspect, and it is something we first bought to the fore post scrappage, is the fact that many modern car salespeople just do not have the expertise, experience or desire to put in the required effort to convert a wavering customer. It is not just about ticking boxes, it is about engaging with people and using the strength of personality (should, of course you have one) to lead the buyer to choose one over another.
Many sales managers can live with the fact that not every salesperson can be a super striker who sells 30 cars per month, if the steady defenders who may churn out less volume but do a great job for the team, weigh in with their fair share. The problem comes when the non-performer with the poor conversion rate is speaking to way too many prospective customers because that is ‘burning leads’ to use trade jargon and in a downturn, where enquiries and showroom footfall are down, that just cannot be allowed to happen if targets are to be met.
From a car buyers perspective we are all no doubt going to be affected by the swingeing cuts in some way or other, but certainly in terms of what we can expect from retailers wanting us to frequent their shops and buy their products we should be able to achieve the dual goal of a great deal and great service.
That may of course be a small crumb of comfort when everything else seems to be being taken away.
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